New York City Teacher Unite!
In the current budget negotiations, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Black are pressuring Governor Cuomo to overturn the teacher seniority rule, known as “last in first out,” which would eliminate protection in the law for more senior teachers. Attached is a letter from newer teachers (who have taught in New York State for five years or less), expressing our opposition to overturning seniority rights. In addition to the reasons outlined it the text of the letter, we support upholding the seniority rule for the following reasons:
· We recognize the importance of hard-won teacher job protection measures –including the right to due process in job evaluation.
· We value the irreplaceable knowledge of experience in honing the craft of teaching and the importance of more senior role models for newer teachers.
· Bloomberg and Black wish to measure teacher performance, for the purpose of determining who should be laid off, by student test scores. Turning the classroom into a stressful test-preparation zone restricts the space we have to learn about the real needs of our students and how to respond to those needs with all the creativity and rigor that the media extol us for.
· The new teacher programs (New York City Teaching Fellows, Peace Corps Fellow, Teach for America, and others) by which many of us came to work in New York City public schools often shortchange teacher development. These programs place inexperienced teachers directly in the classroom, often in new schools that are not organized enough to provide us with beneficial support. Thus many of us commence our careers under extremely stressful working conditions which contribute to a high new teacher turnover rate. The resulting “revolving door” of newer teachers may, ironically, facilitate the budgetary number crunching of our financially stressed superiors, as alternative certification programs provide a constant pool of entry-level faculty who are less expensive to employ. We reject top-down reforms which treat us as cheap labor without building in the true cost of professional development and adequate collaboration time for new teachers.
· Even if we were to be kept on now thanks to a merit system that undermines seniority protection, this does not mean we will be able to practice our work into the future without constantly being required to prove our worth as educators according to the popular evaluation rubric of the day.
· Bloomberg and Black’s plea for “flexibility” in deciding who to lay off is, ultimately, a strategy to weaken teachers’ power to collectively organize and advocate for more support for all teachers.
Please join us as we stand with our senior teachers to fight to uphold the seniority rule and other union-won protections.